Although we didn’t personally do any of it, driving in Rome seemed to require the exact calculations of a mathematician, the daring of a matador, and the patience of a saint. Viewing the insanity as a pedestrian was intimidating enough, so we chose to pursue our sightseeing aboard the double-decker safety of a hop on-hop off bus.
It picked us up only a block from our hotel and provide both transportation and audio tour to all the major sights in Rome. On this particular day, we decided to venture to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum.
All three are within walking distance of each other, so thanks to an excellent tip from Rick Steves, we began our day at the Palatine Hill where we waited in a short line of approximately 25 people and received a ticket that allowed entrance to both Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. This was a lucky tip as the line to buy tickets at the Colosseum was ridiculously long and would have taken at least an hour.
Walking along the ruins of former Roman palaces and government buildings was surreal. We took time to pause and reflect on the generations of people who had walked these paths before us, who had touched the same walls and looked up at the structures with wonder when they were brand new. Looking at the remnants of these structures reinforced how important it is to see history rather than just read about it. Suddenly all those books and movies about Roman history, from Ben Hur to Caesar, became real. This is where they stood. Just beyond Palatine Hill is where the chariots were raced. They walked these paths and now my footprints were mingled with the dust of theirs.
My parents were having a wonderful time taking it all in. They found particular enjoyment in seeing archaeologists excavating traces of even older civilizations while we were there, right before our eyes. We could literally see them uncovering an old clay pot from the ground. Nearby, there were traces of an even older staircase that they were dusting off. Our imaginations were swimming with thoughts of where that staircase had led.
After we explored the grounds of the Forum and Palatine Hill, we were in need of a break and a bite before we tackled the Colosseum. We headed off across the street and popped into a lovely little Italian restaurant (what other kind is there in Italy?) that thankfully, had air conditioning! Even though it was the end of September, someone had forgotten to tell the sun that summer was over, and it was screaming down on us tourists.
We all shared a delicious meal of pizza, pasta, salad, tiramisu, wine and some cold soda for Chad and my Dad. The rest, food, and cool air left us feeling refreshed and ready to continue our Roman exploration. We breezed through the entrance since we already had tickets. It was akin to the Fast Trak lines at Disneyland and we felt like the smartest tourists ever for avoiding the long lines (particularly in the heat).
As we walked along the outer ring of the Colosseum, we all imagined what it must have been like to live here long ago, when people were punished by being fed to wild animals as a roaring crowd cheered and booed. One tale we had read told of a person who was being punished for a minor crime and was lead out to the center ring. As he waited nervously, wondering which vicious animal might appear from one of the surrounding gates, out popped a chicken, ready for the ultimate face off. Certainly this would have been met with roars of laughter from the audience and an immense sigh of relief from the punished man, who would surely have been terrified enough to never consider an act of crime again.
We returned to the hotel feeling completely exhausted from the long day in the sun. We decided to search for some delicious food to bring back to the room. As my Dad rested, my Mom and Chad and I went out in search of souvenirs and dinner. We were successful on both accounts and returned to the room with gifts for family and friends, as well as paninis, water, and snacks. We all sat on my parents bed and played a few games of cards together while we ate our makeshift meal and listened to Italian music on the TV. It was such a relaxing end to our busy day in the busy city of Rome.